Gymea lily

Doryanthes Excelsa

Gymea Lily plants are grown for both their huge, spectacular flower hears and for their large, flat green leaves.

Each globular flower head can be up to 70cm across. It is composed of a mass of red flowers, each 10cm across and characterised by green pollen on the anthers. The underdeveloped flower spikes are also in demand in the floristry market.

The stem grows up to 4m long, making these massive flowers popular for corporate displays. The sword shaped leaves may be up to 2m long and are very versatile for floristry. Those grown under shade are of better quality.

Although native to the Sydney region, the Gymea Lily will grow successfully in a range of coastal climates from Brisbane to Perth. It will grow in cooler environments, but the flowers and foliage are susceptible to heavy frost. While it is relatively resistant to pest and diseases, mealy bigs can be a problem on the stems and flowers.

The plant is extremely tough and tolerant of drought, although watering is needed at the early establishment stage and for good growth rates. The plants are gross feeders requiring regular fertilising.

A plant can take 5-20 years to develop, but a system of burning to simulate bushfires can encourage synchronised flowering.

Harvest spikes before tepals (the botanical term for sepals and petals which are alike or fused) split to avoid copious nectar production, pollen escape and entry of insects. The latter is especially important for export markets. 

This specification applies to both wild-grown and cultivated plants. Consult your state's native flora management plans to determine whether approval to grow or sell Gymea Lily is required. 

In the wild, plants often grow in high densities, and intensive management, such as providing water and fertiliser, will improve quality.

Other Doryanthes species are less suitable for the cut flower market. 

Growing conditions are important in determining flower and leaf quality. Quality is usually greatly improved by light shade, fertiliser and irrigation. The large flower head is easily bruised.

Flowering season in the Sydney region is between June and september, with some spikes from april and late flowers to february. Leaves are available year round.


typical vase life of flowers is up to 4 weeks, although export can reduce this, especially is the transport conditions are not cold enough, the product dries out, or transport takes too long. leaves have a vase life of over 2 weeks.


(from left to right)

Stage 1 -- Immature stage, unacceptable to market.

Stage 2 -- Spear stage, preferred by selected markets (eg export): bracts red, tepals not emerged.

Stage 3 -- Prime stage for domestic and export markets: tepals emerged from bracts by not yet split open.

Stage 4 -- Later stage, not accepted by many markets but still suitable for some domestic markets: a few tepals have split.

Stage 5 -- Overmature stage: many tepals split. Not accepted by most markets, but may suit local markets or immediate end users.

Stage 6 -- Very overmature stage: most tepals have split. Do not market. 





  • Clear vibrant red. Some white and pink variants exist.
  • Flower head fully formed and at final size; symmetrical.
  • Size (diameter) and length must be proportional to stem length.
  • Flower head follows in a straight line from the stem and is not offset from the stem at >15 degrees.


  • Spear: Flower head underdeveloped; no tepals showing. Bracts are reddish.
  • Mature flower head: Flower head fully formed. Tepals emerging from the bracts but no individual flowers opened, as nectar and pollen can cause serious transport problems.
  • Avoid harvesting when flower is wet. 


  • About 1.8m (from cut end to top)


  • No asymmetrical, deformed or damaged blooms.
  • No folding, creasing or ripping of bracts. Individual flowers not blemished, bruised or broken. 
  • No wilting
  • Minimal noticeable bract browning.
  • No chilling injury (apparent as discolouration and watery breakdown of the bracts; critical temperature unknown but likely to be <0 degrees.


  • Product free of grit and soil, weeds or weed seeds, living or dead insects, and signs of insects or spiders, such as webbing.


  • No apparent pest or disease damage. The very large and complex flower head makes insect disinfestation difficult. 
  • Discard any poor-quality product or stems with insects or fungal infections.


  • Straight. Free of disfiguring marks, pest or injury or other blemishes (eg sunburn, frost damage).
  • Neatly cut end.
  • No live or dead insects or other animals present (eg mealy bugs in the base of the sheathing leaves along the stem). 



  • Crisp and medium to dark green.
  • No dull or wilted.


  • Fully mature, not soft.
  • Straight and relatively flat (not curled); clean.
  • Cut straight across base.


  • No evidence of pests, disease or blemishes such as sunburn, frost damage or mechanical damage. Leaves entire (no insect feeding damage).
  • Minimum discolouration (,2%) by area and affecting <10% of leaves); no yellowing.
  • Free of visible chemical residues.
  • No black or rubbery areas, which indicate drying out or overheating.
  • Brown tips and slight margin damage can be trimmed to remove blemish. Trim tip to a tapering point, not straight across. 


  • Free of grit and soil, live insects or spiders, webbing.



  • Minimise drying out and exposure to heat - pick with it is cool, preferably straight into buckets of clean potable water, and hold in the shade.
  • Move cut stems promptly to a cool, shaded packing area.


  • Minimise exposure to heat - pick with it is cool, preferably straight into buckets of clean potable water, and hold in the shade.
  • Do not leave in sun, as this can cause leaf blackening.
  • Move cut leaves promptly to a cool, shaded packing area.



  • Reject any contaminated stems.


  • Flowers are marketed as single stems.


  • Marketed in 4 categories depending on diameter and maturity of inflorescence (ignore outlying clusters of flowers in measurements).
  • Spear -- undeveloped flower (tepals not emerged) with red developing on bracts. Usually <11cm in diameter.
  • Mature inflorescence with tepals emerging -- either 11-25cm diameter, 25-35cm diameter or 35cm+ diameter.



  • Generally marketed in 3 lengths: short (up to 60cm), regular (60-140cm) and tall (140cm+).


  • The number of leaves per bunch varies, and is determined by their size and by market and buyer requirements.
  • Smaller leaves are marketed in bunches of 7.
  • Other sizes are sold in bunches of 5.



  • Effective cooling soon after harvest is important to retaining quality and maximising vase life.
  • The recommended option is to cool as soon as possible after harvest and hold in clean potable water. This will stop the flowers from continuing to open.
  • Aim to store in a high-humidity cool room (95%) at 2-4 degrees within 45 minutes of cutting to remove field heat.
  • Flowers: hold in cool room until ready to process, preferably overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
  • Leaves: hold dry and loosely covered with plastic film in cool room until ready to process, preferably overnight, or for at least 4 hours.


  • Hold in a high-humidity cool room (95%) at 2-4 degrees for up to 5 days (flowers) and for up to several weeks (leaves).
  • Another way of achieving high humidity is to cover the flowers with plastic sleeves or plastic sheeting. Don't do this if fluctuating temperatures cause condensation on the plastic.


  • Post-harvest solution: hold in clean potable water with an added registered biocide.
  • Holding solution: same as post-harvest solution.


  • Flowers can be held dry, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for at least 2 weeks at 2-4 degrees. It is essential that the flowers not come in contact with moisture, to avoid loss of vase life. Store flowers upright to stop them bending themselves upwards, causing misshapen heads.
  • Leaves can be held dry and loosely covered with plastic film in a cool room at 2-4 degrees for up to 6 weeks. Do not pack tightly to avoid crushing or heat build-up. Leaves can be held in a bucket of post-harvest solution for up to 1 week.
  • For longer storage seek professional advice and test in the market before committing product.


  • Pack only dry, cold flowers or leaves.
  • Flowers: owning toL their size, gymea lily flowers are generally transport to local markets standing up in buckets of water, with the stem tied to an upright support within the truck. For longer distance transport and export, stems are packed in extra long boxes and carefully secured within the box with ties or export hooks so they will not move and become damaged. For longer distance transport, protect the heads with shredded paper or bubble wrap.
  • Leaves: transport in buckets of water to close markets. For longer distance, pack in boxes. The number of leaves per box varies, and is determined by the size of the leaf and by market and buyer requirements. The box should contain leaves of similar size.
  • Use boxes with holes to allow forced-air cooling and to facilitate fumigation.
  • Minimise water loss, especially for long distance shipping, by lining boxes with plastic. If the flowers will need forced-air cooling or fumigation, line only the long sides, tops and bases of the boxes, not the ends.
  • Cool to 2-4 degrees before transport.


  • Label boxes and buckets clearly, or as required by customer.
  • Ensure box contents are exactly the same as specified in the documentation and on the end of the box.


  • Short distance: in buckets
  • Medium distance: wrapped in cardboard or packed in boxes.
  • Long distance: refrigerated vehicle at 2-4 degrees.



  • Use pre-harvest fungicide sprays during wet weather to reduce the risk of botrytis disease.
  • Use pre-harvest insecticide sprays to reduce the pest population at harvest.
  • Harvest and market flower heads before individual flowers have opened to minimise the entry of insects.
  • Fumigate flowers before dispatch to kill insects. Check flower heads for insects before packing (insets such as bees may be trapped in the flower head). 
  • Dip flowers that are to be packaged and held for any significant length of time (export) in a registered fungicide and insecticide solution with added wetting agent for not less than 1 minute, then dry naturally for 2 hours to ensure thorough disinfestation. 
  • Avoid post-harvest dips if any florets are open.


  • Doryanthes does not appear to be susceptible to ethylene.

GYMEA LILY handling information

for importers / wholesalers

  • Recut stems and place into fresh water.
  • Cool product before marketing or sending on and keep cool at all times (2-4 degrees).
  • Maintain good hygiene and keep containers clean.

for retailers

  • Recut stems and place into fresh water containing a registered biocide.
  • Use clean buckets and containers for displays.
  • Do not display flowers in areas that are exposed to full sun, draughts, high temperatures or vehicle exhausts, and preferably away from fruit and vegetables. Use refrigerated displays if possible.
  • Tell the customer how to care for the flowers and emphasise the need for fresh water and clean vases.

for consumers

  • Keep vase filled with fresh clean water. Check daily, as flowers can use a lot of water. Change the water at least every second day. Always use clean vases and clean water.
  • Do not display in areas that are exposed to full sun, draughts or high temperatures. Keep as cool as possible without freezing.
  • Discard other flower types in the same vase when they reach the end of their vase life.